Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Second Report




COM(01) 727

Commission Communication on the future of the European Union: European governance — renewing the Community method.

Legal base:
Document originated:5 December 2001
Forwarded to the Council:7 December 2001
Deposited in Parliament:8 January 2002
Department:Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration:EM of 17 January 2002
Previous Committee Report:None
Discussed in Council:Laeken European Council 14/15 December 2001
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared


  19.1  The Commission's Communication was intended to report its views on the future of the EU to the Laeken European Council in December.

The document

  19.2  The Explanatory Memorandum from the Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain) summarises part of the Commission's paper as follows:

"The Paper argues that, whilst the EU has achieved some notable successes in its fifty year history, the very success of the original European project, that of reconciliation between the peoples of Europe, has caused a loss in overall coherence. Indeed, the people of the Union are now faced with machinery which they do not understand. The Commission recognises that at Nice, Member States took the technical decisions required to ensure the accession of new States, but that neither the meaning of European integration, nor the full extent of State co-operation have been debated."

  19.3  The Commission sets out its views on how the Convention on the Future of Europe should be organised. It emphasises that:

"The future European Union will not be built without the support of its citizens, or the commitment of national and European politicians, who need to explain the added value of Europe."

  19.4  More specifically, the Commission argues that:

  • having lists of powers, especially in areas where the EU and Member States share competence, "might risk hampering subsequent developments in the construction of Europe"; therefore particular attention should be given to monitoring the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity;

  • simplifying the Treaties and putting the non-essential provisions in a second document would make it possible to have simplified revision procedures for the latter;

  • the European Parliament's legislative role should be "consolidated"[41], procedures for electing MEPs should be adopted, "taking care to bring voters and MEPs closer together", and the role of European political parties should be strengthened;

  • the Council should meet in public when exercising its legislative functions;

  • the Commission "must concentrate on strategic tasks while affirming its power of initiative";

  • the most effective means should be sought, at national and Community levels, to make national parliaments more involved in European decisions, though not by setting up a new legislative chamber;

  • the European Council "should refocus its work on the task of issuing general guidelines and prepare them in a more transparent and more collective way";

  • the 'Community method' must be preserved but "must gain in terms of democratic legitimacy".

The Government's view

  19.5  The Government recognises the Commission's proposals as valid for discussion in the Convention on the Future of Europe, though it disagrees with some of them. The Minister notes that the Government will make a formal response to the Commission's White Paper on European Governance in March.


  19.6  As the Government indicates, the Commission's paper "has been somewhat overtaken by the Laeken Declaration itself." Nevertheless, it provides a concise (if rather general) indication of the Commission's views on matters to be covered by the Convention on the Future of Europe. We will take it into account in our Report on Democracy and Accountability in the EU and the Role of National Parliaments. We look forward to receiving a copy of the Government's response to the Commission's White Paper on European Governance by the end of March.

  19.7  We clear the document.

41  This is not defined by the Commission; we take it to mean an extension of the co-decision procedure. Back

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